Dené (Athabascan) Languages

Dena’ina (Dena’ina Qenaga)

Dena'ina Language

Dena’ina is the traditional language of the Cook Inlet and the Kenai Peninsula. The name Dena’ina comes from two parts: dena meaning person and ina, the human plural marker in Dena’ina. About 50 people can speak the language. Dena’ina language classes are held at Kenai Peninsula College and at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Dena’ina, like many other Alaska languages, is polysynthetic, meaning a whole sentence can be expressed with just one word. For example, the single word nuntnghel'ił means ‘I will see you again,’

Dena'ina Click to Listen English
Naghe Nduninyu You came to us (traditional way of greeting a visitor), welcome
Chin'an Thank you
Aa' Yes
Nch'u No
Yaghali du? How are you? (Are you fine?)
Aa', yaghali eshlan, ninki du? Yes, I am fine, and you?
Aa', yaghali eshlan, chin'an. Yes, I am fine, thank you.
Ughast'yi Hurry up
Nitsut Sit down

External links:

           Kahtnuht’ana Qenaga Learner's Site

           How We Made Summer Fish Camp


Deg Xinag (Deg Xinag)

Deg Xinag Language

Deg Xinag is the traditional language of Deg Hit’an Athabaskans in four villages on the Lower Yukon River: Shageluk, Anvik, Holy Cross and Grayling. There are no longer any speakers in Holy Cross or Anvik. It is spoken by 14 people in Shageluk and Grayling.

Deg Xinag (no audio) English
Dogedinh Thank you
Gan gon? What is that?
Ndadz dengit'a? How are you?
Xełedz dist'a I'm fine
Chenh ditr'al iy Next time (goodbye)
E Yes
Enagh iy No
Deg Xinag dindldig vantr'alnilay So we will remember Deg Xinag

External Links:

Deg Xinag Learner’s Dictionary resources


Holikachuk (Doogh Qinag)

Holikachuk Language

Holikachuk is the traditional language of the former village of the same name. In the 1960s, residents of Holikachuk moved to Grayling, where some speakers lived until very recently. Probably the last fluent speaker of Holikachuk, Wilson “Tiny” Deacon, passed away in 2012.

Holikachuk is an intermediary between Koyukon and Deg Xinag Athabascan. Although typologically more similar to Koyukon, the language was often in close contact with Deg Xinag, and many learned it as a second language.



Click to listen


Etla, s'coy

Hello, my grandchild


How are you?

Xaledz estlan

I'm good

Ama estlan

I'm sick


What are you doing?

Dzanh gitay nizune

Very nice day

Ndadz ni'ooz

What is your name?

S'ooze Elizabeth

My name is Elizabeth


I'm hungry


Be quiet (strong sentiment, like shut up)

Dimalo xaledz enlan

I hope you are well

Nqah esta

I love you (said to significant other)


Thank you

Dimalo s'kinaq xinishayh

I wish I could speak my language


Upper Kuskokwim (Dinak’i)

Upper Kuskokwim Language

Upper Kuskokwim is spoken in the villages of Telida, Nikolai and McGrath, where 25 people speak the language. With the help of a grant from the Administration for Native Americans, Upper Kuskokwim established a comprehensive website to preserve linguistic and cultural knowledge of the people of the Kuskokwim River drainage.

Upper Kuskokwim (no audio) English
Do’ent’a? How are you?
Si’it huztsunh I'm fine
Aha Yes
No' No
One' Come here

External Links:

           Upper Kuskokwim Language Preservation Project


Denaakk'e (Denaakk’enaage’)

Koyukon Language

Denaakk'e (or Koyukon) Athabascan is spoken by 150 people along the central Koyukuk and Yukon rivers, in the villages of Kaltag, Nulato, Galena, Ruby, Koyukuk, Tanana, Huslia, Hughes, Allakaket and Stevens Village. It is divided into three dialects: Lower, Central and Upper Koyukon.

enaakk'e Click to Listen English
Do'eent'aa? How are you?

Eszoonh (Yukon dialect) 

Do'eelstaa'aa (Koyukuk dialect)

I'm fine
Dzaanh nezoonh It's a good day
Baasee' Thank you
Enaa neenyo Welcome (lit. precious you came)
Ggenaa' Friend
Nedaats'e koonh See you later
Sodelts'eeyh I'm happy
Doogh dzaanh dohoot'aa? How is the weather?
Denaakk'e hedohudege'eeh I'm learning Denaakk'e

External Links:

Koyukon Junior Dictionary

Denaakkenaage’ Facebook group


Tanana (Menhti Kenaga)

Tanana Language

Tanana Athabascan (also known as Lower Tanana) is spoken in the villages of Nenana and Minto by about 25 remaining speakers. In the past, it was also spoken in Salcha and Chena Village, near Fairbanks.

Tanana (no audio) English
Do'eent'aa? Hello, how are you?
Maasee' Thank you
Betlanh His friend
Kokht’ana dot’anhł What is the man doing?
Srudel’oł He is playing


Gwich’in (Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa)

Gwich'in Language

Gwich’in is the most northern Athabascan language in Alaska, spoken in the far Northeast, and in Northwestern Yukon. About 300 Gwitch’in speak the language in Alaska, and another 350 speak the language in Canada.

The caribou or vadzaih is of extreme importance to Gwich’in people. Elders have been able to identify more than 150 Gwich’in names for caribou bones, organs and tissues. 

Gwich'in  Click to Listen English
Neenjit dôonch'yàa? Hello, how are you?
Sheenjit gwiinzìi I'm fine
Hai' Thank you
Nakhwal'in shoo ihłii I'm happy to see you
Shijyaa My friend
Aanaįį shaa dhindii Come and sit/visit with me
Neenihaal'yaa See you again
Łyâa neet'ih than I love you

External Links:

Yukon Native Language Center

Gwich’in Caribou Anatomy


Hän (Häɬ goɬan)

Han Language

The Han language is spoken by just two speakers in the village of Eagle, Alaska and by a few more in Dawson City, Yukon. It is most related to Gwich’in and was used as a lingua franca by several Native groups during the Gold Rush era.

Hän has four lexical tones: a low tone, a high tone, a rising tone and a falling tone.

Hän (no audio) English
Nänjit dähònche? How are you
Shänjit hǫzǫ I'm fine
Dìndąy' What are you doing?
Nijaa Our friends
Mahsi' Thank you

External Links:

Yukon Native Language Center


Tanacross (Nee’aanděg’)

Tanacross Language

Tanacross is spoken by 50 people in the villages of Healy Lake, Dot Lake and Tanacross. It is divided into two dialects: Mansfield and Healy Lake-Joseph Village. Tanacross continues to be the daily language spoken among the elderly, but few children speak or understand the language.

Tanacross (no audio) English
Nts'é t'ínt'eh? How are you? (one person)
Nts'é t'áht'eh? How are you? (more than one person)
Ihsᶙᶙ I'm well
Tsín'ęę Thank you
Tsíná'ęę Thank you very much

External Links:

Tanacross Learner’s Dictionary Online

Tanacross Learner’s Dictionary Application


Upper Tanana (Neeʼaandeegnʼ)

Upper Tanana Language

Upper Tanana is spoken by Athabascans in Tok, Tetlin and Northway, as well as in the Scottie Creek Drainage in the Yukon. Upper Tanana is mutually intelligible with Tanacross, but uses a low lexical tone where Tanacross would use a high lexical tone. The language is spoken by 55 people in Alaska and about as many in Canada.

Upper Tanana (no audio) English
Nts'ąą' dįįt'eh? How are you?
Suu' Good, fine
Tsen-'įį Thank you
ąą' Yes 
Kol No

External Links:

Yukon Native Language Center


Ahtna (Atnakenaege’)

Ahtna Language

Ahtna is spoken by 25 speakers in the Copper River region in Interior Alaska. It is closely related to Dena’ina. There are four main dialects of Ahtna: Lower (Atnahwt’aene), Central Dan’ehwt’aene, Western (Tsaay Hwt’aene) and Upper Ahtna (Tatl’ahwt’aene). Subsistence activist Katie John helped to create an orthography for Ahtna in the 1970s.

Ahtna Click to Listen English
Nts'e di'tae? How are you (singular)?
Ugheli ełaen I'm good
Nts'e doht'ae? How are you (plural)?
Ugheli ts'ilaen We are good
Aen Yes
Kole No
Xonahang Goodbye
Tsin'aen Thank you
Nune'sniic I love you (to significant other)
Siine k'e nadae I love you (to family members, etc)

External Links:

Ahtna Phrase of the Day

*Images courtesy of the Alaska Native Language Archive